We had originally planned at going to the 4th of July event at our resort, but after seeing the debacle of the Latin Dance show, and that the food was a nightmare, we didn’t bother planning for that. We just headed into town for the day and figured that something would come up in the evening. Something usually does.WP_20130704_007

It was hot. Not much wind either. We walked into town via the Camino Real instead of the beach, which was actually easier, as there was a bit of shade and our feet didn’t slide all over the sand as we went. We didn’t have much of a plan, so we started at a cheap tourist shop to get some hats, as it was really getting hot, and then we figured that we would walk in through the tourist shops that were a couple of blocks off of the marina.

The town is actually pretty cool. The pushy salesmen on the marina front turn into some interesting shops scattered among the standard tourist stuff. The buildings are older and with a lot more character than the rebuilt marina. We walked into a small covered flea market, and Yulia found a vendor with some pretty cool silver jewelry, and started bargaining for some nice items. I stood by like a sweaty guard while Yulia worked the guy over on price.

I should point out that Yulia lived in Turkey for a year, so the Mexican never really stood a chance. She once worked a vendor in Turkey over for a leather jacket for months, coming back each day. She talked him from $500 to $30. But that was pretty much just to make her go away at that point.

We didn’t have months to work on this guy, so it largely was for the principle of the thing. After a bit of preliminary chatter, the guy showed Yulia the difference on the table between the “tourist” items, that he could let go for really cheap, and the actual jewelry. She had already figured this out, and eventually they settled on a price for a bracelet and a ring, and I just stood, smiling like a dope. I really don’t haggle well. So I just kept my mouth shut. And then I sweated some more.

A street down or so we found a shop with some nice linen shirts, and I found a nice one my size. Yulia haggled the lady down in price, naturally.

We wandered through the shops, Past Cabo Wabo again, and hit the marina front for some lunch. We went to a restaurant that we ate at on our last rip to Cabo, which is attached to the Tequila Museum. When we were here last, the Tequila Museum was a sop that has a little presentation and tour about the making of tequila, with interesting murals and such, followed by a tequila tasting. Now it is just a part of the restaurant, with boxes in front of the murals, but the food is really great.

We were really sweating from the heat at this point. Yesterday had a bit of wind to cool us down, but today was almost perfectly still. We got some water and Margs to cool off. Even though they had a nice deck, we sat inside to take in some of the AC. As an appetizer, we had a melted three cheese with tequila. This is basically a Mexican Fondue, but wow. They bring out a Carved Stone Pig Bowl, red hot, and start dumping cheese in. the thing sizzles and smokes. then the light some form of flammable Tequila, pour it around to be artsy and shit, then add that to the cheese to the whole thing catches fire.

At this point I wanted a cigarette.WP_20130704_016

And that pig-bowl.

This is scooped over Corn Tortillas, and you fold into Quesadillas. They serve with sauces and salsas, and holy crap is it good. I then had Chile Relleno, which is peppers stuffed with more cheese. (I should note this was fresh Oxaca cheese, truly amazing) Yulia had a Cactus leaf salad, and Sasha had a curried fruit salad, that was great, but a bit strange.

I don’t think I have ever eaten more cheese in my whole life.

Once we were able to move again, we headed down the beach back to the hotel. This put us through the gauntlet of the growing party in front of The Office and Mango Deck who were getting ready for the night’s festivities. As we pushed through the crowd, a whistle blew. As we looked over a woman in a lifeguard outfit ran up, blew her whistle again, and promptly poured a shot of something orange from a Grey Goose bottle down Yulia’s throat. She blew here whistle and the crowd behind her cheered. She stuck a shot glass into Yulia’s cleavage, blew her whistle, and instructed me to drink. Not wanting to argue with authority, I did my best, when she grabbed the rest of the shot, poured it in my mouth, shook my head and promptly charged me 10 bucks.

Ah yes, Mexico.

I paid so we could quickly leave and have enough time to take antibiotics in the room for whatever she gave us. At least I had stopped sweating.

We got back, cleaned up, and rested on the patio for a bit. I got my call confirming our Snorkeling reservation for the next day, so that was good news. It felt like it had cooled down, so I took a rest. I woke up cold. I looked around, it was still hot out, but I was shivering. The first thought was poisoning from the orange shots, but Yulia was fine. It took me a second for my Boy Scout brain to kick in – High Temperature, No Sweat, Shivering.

I had Heat Exhaustion.

The pretty resort may fool you, but this is still a desert here. And if you don’t respect the desert, it will bite you in the ass. Today’s score was Desert:1, Mark:0

I put something on since I knew I was losing heat at this point, and was severely dehydrated. We had four bottles of water on our walk today, but with the heat it was not nearly enough. The girls were fine, but I was a wreck. Hell, I kept telling them to drink up as we walked, but obviously didn’t take my own advice. I started re-hydrating right away, and things started to get back to normal by the time we had dinner.

We got a table at the restaurant on the corner of the resort, it has a full view of the bay, and we found out that there would be a full fireworks show over the bay at dusk. I had more water and a few light beers to keep rehydrating over dinner. We ate light, and over dinner we ended up seeing three fireworks shows , one at each end and the middle of the bay, each at different times. It was an amazing show. WP_20130704_033

WP_20130703_005Winds and waves were lower this morning.  So we made plans to get a water taxi to take us across the bay to Lover’s Beach and the Arch. The upside to being offered a taxi every few feet on our walk into town the other day was that we now knew the best place to pick one up. We already knew that the water was too rough right outside our Resort, even with the wind down the waves were still way too rough to get near the waterline. But halfway down, in front of the Mango Deck, there was a very smooth landing spot, and a company with foldup ladders on the boats.

This was much easier, and meant that we had a lot less chance of Yulia hurting her rib any worse (from her fall three weeks ago). it was a cheap ride, and the driver told us that the latest storm wiped out the beach under the arch, so we gave him a tip to take us around the point t get a few photos of the famous stone arch, then headed for the beach.

The beach was stunning, and hot. We took something like five bottles of water with us, and when we felt the heat we were glad to have it. The sand cracked under our feet as we walked inland, with a dry crust that we would step through until we got close enough to the other shore for it to be moist again. Waves from the unprotected side were crashing  up the rocks, and it was a really amazing sight. Once the heat really got to us, we headed back into the bayside of the beach, and found the swimming area just a bit in. We rented an umbrella, and a few beers from one of the locals, and Yulia swam while Sasha and I watched the local Chipmunks steal food from the other Americans when they weren’t looking. Pelicans stood on the rocks nearby watching the whole show, waiting for small fish to be scared up to the surface by the snorkelers. It was hot and good.

We took in as much heat as we could, then caught the next taxi back to the shore. This one was a glass-bottom taxi, which gave us a full view of not a goddamn thing. Cool bubbles though.

We made shore, hiked back to the hotel, with local vendors offering us a water taxi, after watching us just disembark a water taxi, and had a great lunch on our Pirate Boat. Eating lunch, I did a little math. At every meal, even though it is covered on our all-inclusive plan, we get a bill. This lets us add an extra tip past the pre-included amount, if we want. It also lets us see what this meal would have cost if we had paid cash. Extrapolating out, if we keep eating at our current rate, we will eat the equivalent of 1.5x what we actually paid for our stay here. With a little work, we could double it.

Challenge Accepted!

I ordered two shots of bar tequila and beer chasers, and retired to poolside.  We checked the Resort schedule, and found that tonight was the “Latin Dance Night” over at the partnering Villa in our group, and was part of our all-inclusive. This seemed like a good plan, so we rested at the pool, swam, and rested some more until the evening. Once we cleaned up and dressed, we walked over to the other resort for the dinner and show.

It is a short walk from Villa del Arco to Villa Del Palmar. But as we noted, they couldn’t be farther apart. Villa del Palmar is the “economy” resort, and while it has a great restaurant on the beach, the shows are apparently the nightly “all you can eat” bonus.  The crowd looked like extras from “Jersey Shore” and men large enough to use their bellies as their own speedos. The food was of low quality, but made up for it in volume. Wow.

The drinks were the same as our hotel, so we clung to our little alcoholic life rafts and waited for the show. It opened with a round of musical chairs for the kids, which by a strange coincidence, had better footwork than the show to come.

At her last showcase, Sasha was judging the younger kids in their dance events. Not as in being judgmental, but the actually ran a kid’s event, and she was scoring them professionally. Both Yulia and Sasha were very excited to  see Latin dance in Mexico, but this wasn’t it. It was bad enough that Sasha started scoring the show from our table. “They are moving their hips and ribs at the same time”, “This is not a proper Samba”, it was awesome, and probably the best part of the show.

We did get a souvenir bottle of tequila with a family photo on it, which comes in a close second.

We are still hoping to find some great latin dance here. But that wasn’t it.

If I were to be fully honest, I would have to admit that my primary motivation for trying to eat well and exercise is fear.

I fear Cancer. I had the distinct displeasure of watching my good friend Chuck slowly waste away and succumb to cancer, for no particularly good reason. My Father and Uncle both survived. My Mother-in-Law is a Stage 4 survivor.

I fear Alzheimer’s. For a time my grandmother thought that I was my father, and that My father was her husband. I got to see the confusion on her face and the pain in my father’s face. She was taken from us ten years before she died.

I fear Diabetes, joint failure, injury and sickness. We all see friends and family suffering from one thing or another. It is truly a rare occurrence to know of someone who is free from all disease or condition than the opposite.

But I don’t fear dying young. I have said before, and I think it is still true, that with the state of today’s medicine, it is very unlikely that Most of us alive today will die before our mind or bodies wear out.

That is perhaps the greatest thing to fear.

Think for a moment what that implies. Get a disease? There’s a drug for that. Failing organ? There’s a drug for that. Chronic Pain? There’s a drug for that. Clogged arteries? There’s a drug for that. You aren’t healthy but we aren’t sure why? There’s a drug for that. Potentially fatal drug interaction? There’s a –oh wait, shit.

Smash yourself up and we can sew you up. Things that would have killed us 20 years ago are routine to survive now.

But surviving isn’t living.

While nothing can guarantee a long healthy life, I look at my health like a game of poker. Every day, I have to push all-in. We all do, we have no choice. We put our lives on the line all day by crossing the street, stepping outside, picking up a trash can, everything. Hell, some folks bite it taking a dump.

We don’t control our bets, and we sure don’t control the cards on the table, so that just leaves the cards in our hand, our “hole” cards. And in that case, we have some options.

In real poker, I want aces. If I have a crappy hand, like 2-7 off suit, I won’t play. In life, we get to pick our “hole” cards.

We can choose to be active, strong and healthy. We control what we eat. While most everyone our in the world will argue about what the “perfect” diet or exercise might be, we all know what the worst is. We know that the standard, American, processed, sugary diet is killing us. The lazy, tired, sedentary life is killing us. We probably don’t need to be “perfect” but even being pretty good gives us all a fighting chance.

We hear in virtually every study that obesity is the primary marker for almost every disease of civilization. Eat natural food. Do some walking. Your weight will come down.

Congrats, you have pocket tens.

Start experimenting with your diet and find if you need lower carb or higher protein. Try different workouts. Build some muscle. Take some vitamins. Eat some Kale.

Push for Jacks or Queens.

If we are willing to give ourselves a shot, the benefit of the doubts, then we have a better chance of avoiding disease, cancer or injury. We have a better shot at healing faster when we do get ill or injured. There are not guarantees, the best we can do is improve our odds.

I’m pushing for aces myself.

We were watching Anthony Bourdain’s travel show the other day, and I was really hit by a comment that he said. The show was a tour through the Burgundy region of France, and if you have been to any part of France outside of Paris, you can really appreciate the beauty of the provinces. But Bourdain’s show is about Food, and also, his reactions to food. So this comment erupted after a tour of wineries, shops, all the usual places, and he and his traveling companion were in some side market, tasting vegetables from the region. After tasting some random – whatever, he said:

“If vegetables tasted like this in America, people would actually eat them!”

I was floored.

This comment reactivated ideas that had been swimming in my head for a long time since I have started eating a “Paleo” type diet.

I went today to get my Flu shot at Microsoft. It is one of the cool corporate benefits that we get, and they will also to a quick health screening as well. A mail get sent around to everyone to click a link that takes you to the internal wellness site, where you can pick a time to get your shot, and even take the spouse along for free.

When you sign up, the tool also walks you through a short series of questions about your health habits, do you exercise, how many hours, what do you eat, etc. The one that made me pause was, “Do you eat fatty red meat such as Hamburgers, Pizza…”

I stopped right there.

I’m not sure where you eat, but the last time I saw a hamburger, the “meat” was the smallest part of it. And most of the “red” on the last pizza I saw was sauce. The next choice was eating “Lean” meats such as chicken breasts. Third place is you’re fired.

My eating habits, of eating “fatty” cuts of meat that aren’t wrapped in a great blob of gluten isn’t even a choice. How about the quality of meat that I eat? Do they really think that the source and feed or hormone profile makes no difference?

If you have ever read any paleo blog or book, a common refrain is the poor quality of studies that claim the benefits of whole grains or the dangers of fats in the diet, when confounders in these studies wipe out any chance of getting valuable data. Calling Pizza a “Red Meat” happens often. Not controlling for food quality is common.

If you talk with someone who advocates a “Low Carb” diet, it will be uncommon to find two people who agreed what “low” exactly means. And virtually none of the studies out there, pro or con, state this clearly.

We frequently hear about how a ratio of macronutrients will give one he alt benefit or another, vs how many calories are needed per day. But does your body treat 100 calories of cake the same as 100 calories of spinach? How about 10 ounces of cheap, feedlot beef vs 10 ounces of prime, organic grass-fed bison? Are carbs the same in apples and bread? Is fat the same between Soy oil and avocado? How fresh are the ingredients?

If I buy a tomato from the store, even from the organic pile, and eat a slice, it’s pretty good. But its just a tomato. We get freshly picked tomatoes delivered each week ripened on the vine, and cutting into one release smells of the vine and soil, and with that I can remember being 12 years old, running in my grandparents yard and brushing against their tomato plants, potted in wine barrels, releasing that same smell when I hit them.

If the quality of food can impact my memories so much, how is that impacting my health? How is the lack of that quality impacting our health?

The whole concept of eating high-quality, clean, natural food is such a novelty in our culture now. We look to packaged, enriched foods and expensive drugs to make up for missing basics in our diet. We want simple, easy numbers to track (100 calories! 50 carbs!) so we can check them off of a list.

But our bodies don’t run on checklists.

We are what we eat. We are what our food eats. We are where our food grows.

Those are first principles. Eat real food.

After that, we can discuss eating more of one thing or less of another. But discussing and arguing over how much garbage and chemical by-product we should eat isn’t the answer.

Once first principles are correct, we can move to the next step.